The pros and cons of SharePoint continue to divide users
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Over the past several years, Microsoft's SharePoint software has arguably become the gold standard for team collaboration...
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and content management. Even so, it is difficult to ignore the fact that SharePoint can be expensive to license and difficult to support. In addition, users can find SharePoint nonintuitive, even with training.
Fortunately, SharePoint is not the only option for organizations that require SharePoint-like functionality. Several other products offer features similar to SharePoint's. While the list is hardly exhaustive -- there are many content management systems on the market – below, we explore technologies that have commonalities with SharePoint and may be a better fit for organizations in terms of cost or management.
Alfresco Software is probably the best-known SharePoint alternative. It provides similar functionality to SharePoint. Like SharePoint, Alfresco is a Web-based tool for enterprise content management (including document management), Web content management, records management, and social content management and collaboration.
Alfresco also includes some more advanced features and capabilities that make the usability experience similar to that of SharePoint. For example, it is possible to "like" content and follow its author. Alfresco also includes a workflow engine and a content analysis engine, and it supports autotagging of documents and integration with various file-sharing apps.
Alfresco has structured its pricing so that a product's cost corresponds to the size of the organization and the way the product is used. A community-supported starter subscription sells for $7,150 per year, while a quad-CPU enterprise subscription sells for $75,399 per year. The company also offers cloud-based subscriptions starting at $129 per month.
Huddle is another well-known SharePoint alternative. The software allows for file sync and share, collaboration through secure workspaces, project management, and workflows -- and the list goes on. The software also integrates with Microsoft Office and with social networks. Since Huddle is marketed as a SharePoint alternative, it is equipped to migrate data out of SharePoint.
Huddle uses a subscription-based pricing model. The Workgroup subscription starts at 25 users and costs $20 per user per month. The Enterprise subscription starts at 100 users and costs $40 per user per month.
It is worth noting that Huddle's price is on par with that of SharePoint. An Office 365 Enterprise E3 subscription costs $20 per user per month and includes SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer and Microsoft Office.
Some organizations choose to use SharePoint alternatives because they simply do not need all of SharePoint's features. For example, an organization might need Web content management capabilities, but not the other SharePoint features. HP TeamSite, which is part of the Autonomy suite of products, may be a good choice for such organizations.
TeamSite is designed to be a comprehensive system for Web content management. It helps with everything from site design and layout to content authoring and multichannel delivery. The software is also able to perform targeted content delivery so that site content is displayed to visitors based on their geographic location, behavior, etc.
TeamSite can also help with metadata management -- to assign tags to content to enable categorization and retrieval -- which can be a grueling task to perform manually. The software can enforce site taxonomies and SEO policies. It even supports the dynamic generation of content tags.
Organizations that are looking for a free Web content management system should consider WordPress. WordPress is marketed as a free, open source Web application for creating blogs. But entire business sites can be built on top of WordPress.
At its core, WordPress is a graphical design tool. Admins can use a WYSIWIG (or "What you see is what you get") style editor to create pages within the site or to upload new content on an as-needed basis. While WordPress is a decent Web content management system on its own, the thing that makes WordPress really worthwhile is its add-ons. Just as SharePoint is extensible through Web Parts, WordPress is also extensible. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of open source add-ons that are freely available for WordPress. Of course, an organization can always opt to make its own customizations rather than relying on open source code.
One of SharePoint's best features is its document library. Organizations that need a similar feature but don't want the ample investment in SharePoint should check out Google Drive, Google's consumer-grade cloud storage offering. It works like other consumer cloud storage services such as OneDrive or Dropbox.
Like SharePoint's document libraries, Google Drive works with a wide variety of file types, and files that have been uploaded can be shared with others. Google gives you the ability to choose who can comment on, view or edit files.
Like SharePoint, Oracle WebCenter Sites allows users to build portals for sharing enterprise content. WebCenter Sites strongly emphasizes interaction with mobile devices, but the product's best feature might be its document imaging capabilities. WebCenter Sites can capture document images and then perform automated recognition; classification; and routing of those images for files like business forms, faxes and raw documents.
OpenText Enterprise Content Management
As the name implies, OpenText Enterprise Content Management is a content management system. It is a tool for applying governance policies to documents in a way that maintains compliance and security while also managing information lifecycles. Like SharePoint, OpenText also features an e-discovery engine that legal departments can use to gather content.
Another key feature of OpenText is its archiving engine. Archiving policies work even in multi-tenant environments, and the software also supports the archiving of external content such as Google Mail and Office 365 mail.
OpenText also provides other SharePoint like capabilities, such as the ability to share documents externally, build workflows and create content-specific dashboards.
Given users' concerns about SharePoint's ease of use, it’s worth exploring ECM software that is similar but may offer fewer management headaches or lower cost. In some cases, you can take a freeware version of the software for a test drive before you sign on the dotted line.
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